Who would you select in best ever Gunners' XI?
GunnerPete emailed me with this question and the suggestion that it should be put to Arsenal supporters everywhere.
GunnerPete has been supporting AFC since 1948, so his own selection of Gunners' greats is based on a depth of knowledge that is both immense and impressive. His 4-4-2 selection (and reasoning behind each pick) is:
Jack Kelsey....he was without doubt the greatest commander of a penalty area I have ever seen, and you have to remember that during his time we had some of the worst defenders in our history. I genuinely believe that Jack kept us in the first division almost single handed a couple of seasons. I was lucky to meet him many times after he retired, because I was working at Finsbury Park & he was running some early fund raising scheme. He was so modest and genuine, its hard to believe in the context of today's players. My second & third choice Goalie are.....Seaman & Jennings.
Don Howe.........I remember how wingers used to disappear when playing against us, and when so called wonder men from Brazil were up against him. He was a really great thinking defender. He was a stopper, like Sol, but Don could pass. Tactically, he was the best ever, as he organised all those around him, like he did after he retired. 2nd / 3rd......Rice & Dixon.
Tony Adams......Don't think I need to say much about big Tone. You want to have the will to win in all weathers and against all types of opposition, and with the worst biased officials, you pick him. AND he was a great defender too!
2nd / 3rd = Bould & Simpson.
Frank Mclintock...I remember Frank's first game after AFC paying out a record fee for a midfielder. We were murdered at home and he was terrible. His face said it all " what have I joined here"? It took at least 6 months before he decided what role we needed, and he began to take over defensive duties alongside starting most of our attacks. He became the best timer of a tackle I had seen, and never gave up whatever the score, home or away. A thing some of our foreign players will never learn. I shall never forget his greatest game, when he drove our young pre double winning side of 1971, to overcome a better side (Anderlecht) to win 3-0 in the Final, after being 3-1 down from the first leg.......stupendous ! 2nd / 3rd....Roberts & Campbell.
Eddie Hapgood...Like Tony Adams, Eddie was a great organiser (according to my Dad, who was a Chelsea Supporter) His positional sense was uncanny, very similar to Bobby Moore, no pace but they did not pass him often. He was also the most dapper in his appearance on and off the field. He would be my Captain too. 2nd = Samson.
David Rocastle...What potential he had that was not completely realised. I believe he was sold because George Graham had been told of a knee injury that would return for longer & longer periods as his career progressed. AFC, wrongly decided to cash in on him, and helped destroy his wonderful AFC & England future. He had the lot. Pace, strength, shot, & defensive ability second to none. I remember meeting Geordie Armstrong in my village in Cambridge, a couple of times, and he raved about David. Geordie knew what he was talking about, being one of the best ever. 2nd / 3rd.....Mcleod & Clapton.
Alex James.....Well, what can you say about a player who can knock Liam Brady out of any team. Apart from my Dad, all my family ancestors, were Gunners, and before the great George Eastham & Jimmy Logie, we had Alex. He was often a few drinks for the worse, but my family say that his skill was of the level of Maradona, and that says it all except that the podgy Argy never played with the huge leather ball, with very painful laces right across the top. He also never played in the mud that Alex played on week in, week out, and he was tiny. One cup match I heard about was a sensation: when the opposing Manager told his defenders to not bother with James just cut out his final pass, because he does not score. Alex then scored the first hat-trick of his career. When people talk about George Best, it makes me squirm, because although a great player, he never faced the defenders Alex did or the pitches etc. AND most of all, he was at a club that media have always overdone the praise since the tragic 1957 crash. That was when we all supported Man, U. for a year. " 2nd / 3rd = Brady & Eastham.
Patrick Vieira......All I will say is that he is unique. I cannot remember any past player to compare Pat with. The nearest I came was Tommy Docherty (who was great & never mentioned now as a player). Alex Forbes, was very hard, but lacked finesse.
Pat should have seen his career out at AFC. The stadium deserved him, and I hate to say it but, watch out when the 'love in' at Juventus wanes (T adds that Overmars, Petit, etc found that the grass was not greener away from Highbury, but hopes Pat has a better time at Juve). 2nd / 3rd Docherty & Bowen
Cliff Bastin.......The simple fact that it took a super striker like Wright to beat Cliffs record, says it all. He was so rare. A goal-scoring winger who made so many for others and frightened the opposition to death; he was very similar to Henry today. He actually (from the wing) scored his total in many less matches that Ian or Thierry, but with so much modesty. One day when the so called experts who run the polls in the media, actually take a look at all teams for the greatest ever players in the UK, and not just from favourites like Man, U. Liverpool & Spurs, you will see Cliff up there with Best, Pele, James & Maradona.
2nd / 3rd = Pires & Haverty.
Ted Drake.......I think I am right in saying that Ted still holds the record for a one man score in top football. He scored seven against Villa, and the best story came from the Ref after the game when interviewed, he said " When I disallowed what would have been 'Teds' eighth goal, he asked why, and all I could say was, don't be greedy Ted, seven is enough for anyone" . After the game the ref admitted he had got that decision wrong! The biggest joke about this match was that Ted should not have played due to injury, but started with his leg heavily strapped. He also hit the bar. Ted was fearless, but controlled. His footwork was excellent and he was a great team man. BUT, he was without doubt the best header of a ball AFC ever had. The only other player I saw as good was Jackie Milburn (Newcastle). He only edges Wrighty out because of Teds variation. 2nd / 3rd David Jack & Bergkamp
Thierry Henry......Absolutely no doubt who should be my number 10. Thierry, is the greatest striking forward Ive ever seen, and that includes Galacticos such as.......Drake, Wright, Dalglesh, Lawton, Pele, Maradona, Eusebio, Puskas, Van Basten, Best, Greaves, Law, and many, many more . The difference, which is enormous, is that TH, creates more than any other player that Ive seen. BUT his conversion record is second to none. Only Greaves made scoring look as simple, but Jim could not score from 25/35 yards. If TH, ever learned how to head a ball, he would score 40/50 per year, and against the organised defences we have world wide now days, that is sensational. My mind boggles when I remember the pace of yesteryear, and how there was no falling back to help your defence etc. Very little packed defences, and you played with injuries week in week out. Today, stars miss 6/10 games per year that in the 1950 / 60's, they would have had to play.
2nd /3rd Wright & Joe Baker
GunnerPete's subs: "pick 6 out of this lot":-
Seaman, Jennings, George, Mcleod, Bowen, Docherty, McNab, Cole, Male, Pires, Bould, Roberts, Howe, Compton, Rice, Simpson, Radford, Logie, Baker, Clapton, Toure, Tapscott, O'leary, Bergkamp, Winterburn, Brady, Petit, Reg Lewis, David Jack, Forbes, Lishman, Holton, Barnes, Samson, Lambert.
My own selection is based on being an AFC supporter since 1988, so I must rely only on what I have heard and read about the past Arsenal greats' that are pre-Graham and Wenger.
My 4-4-2 selection is:
Kelsey: Informed Arsenal watchers say he has not been surpassed by Jennings, Wilson or Seaman. Also goalie for Wales team that reached quarters of World Cup 1958 before losing 1-0 to Brazil.
Dixon: For 15 years gave 100% commitment under Graham and Wenger, picking up 4 championship medals along the way.
Hapgood: England captain left-back who played 434 over 11 seasons during prolonged era of Arsenal domination in 1930's.
Adams: Colossus of a leader that marshalled the world's famous Arsenal water-tight defence for 16 years. Led AFC to four championship wins (including two doubles) under Graham & Wenger, three FA Cups, and the European Cup Winners Cup (when English teams were generally struggling in Europe).
McLintock: 1970-71 double-winning captain.
Overmars: Only with Arsenal for three seasons (integral to winning the double in his first), an awesome winger with supreme ball-control sprinting speed; determination; and killer instinct in front of goal. I had to find a place for him in my starting line-up so placed him on the right because Bastin is unremovable from the left wing position.
Vieira: A one-off CM phenomenon: great ball-control, stamina, tackling ability, accurate & quick passer, unlimited passion, ultimate team-player, and captain of the Arsenal 49ers.
James: Key-man, playmaker, and prolific assist-provider of 1930's team that dominated and revolutionised football.
Bastin: 176 goals from left wing, his lethal form of wing play (along with Hulme on the right) was ground-breaking.
Drake: An outstanding strike-rate of 136 goals in 182 games before the war ended his AFC playing career sees him edge out Legend Dennis (whose 'rolling back the years' performance against Man Utd in the 4-2 defeat last February will always live long in my memory).
Henry: To quote Andy Gray (fantastic piece of commentary after TH scored his fourth against Leeds in the unbeaten season): "I’ve seen most things in top flight English Football over the last 25years or so – but I’ve never seen anything like him!". The ultimate striker with limitless potential (which was immediately evident when closely watching him for the first time in an AFC shirt), a goals and assists record that is simple incredible, a consistency which is unsurpassed, a combination of awesome technique, pace, skill, passion, and finishing ability that is untouchable and thrilling to watch, and a sportsman in every sense of the word. Star player in his six and a bit seasons at the club; won the Premiership twice, FA Cup three times, but no Champs League success for AFC…. yet!
I definitely recommend thinking about and selecting your own greatest Gunners' team. Recalling those AFC greats' that you have seen play, or read and heard others' speak about, simply reinforces the belief that Arsenal is a uniquely great football club with a long and rich competitive football history at the top of the English game…. and with many more years of it still to come!
I'll open up EFT for you to compile your own greatest Gunners' team, and to discuss the merit's of all our selections. Many thanx again GunnerPete for your suggestion and input…